HOW DEMOCRATS CAN HANDLE TRUMP’S ADDICTION
It’s time to accept the reality of Donald Trump’s election and make a plan to deal with it. Those of us who grew up in homes with men like him know exactly how he will behave and we can tell you a great deal about how to handle him.
Begin by Recognizing the Truth
Donald Trump has an addictive personality and his drug of choice is power over others, along with self-aggrandizement. Last Tuesday, this out-of-control man knocked on the White House door and some very angry, very foolish people let him in. They want him to disrupt things. He will certainly do that, but he will do it in ways none of us can predict and few of us will like. His voters also want him to help them. That will probably not happen. For people with active addictions don’t help their families, they generally destroy them.
Donald Trump’s enablers have just handed him the mother load of what he craves most and he is physiologically compelled to ingest as much as he can. Over the next four years, he will remain active in his disease and become worse. The new power and attention he has been given will produce extreme mood swings, make him irrational, unfocused and volatile. He will bully, rant, abuse and love desperately. He will do all of this in the course of a single day. And there is NOTHING any of us can do about it. We did not cause his behavior. We can not cure it. AND WE CAN NOT CHANGE IT. Like the family of any active addict, we need to have a plan to deal with it, if we hope to survive.
The Plan for Survival
This is my advice for the Democrats in Congress who must work with Donald Trump. It focuses on the only power we have when working with any active addict: setting boundaries and sticking to them.
Keep it simple. Whenever you deal with an active drunk, you must know exactly what you want from him and then state it clearly and simply. Don’t ask for things that are complicated or threatening. You must be clear, respectful and very, very firm. Remember, the maturity level for someone like Trump is about 13 years old, so you will always be the adult in the room.
Never Engage in Nonsense. An addict with the scope of Donald Trump’s addiction will say and do anything to get attention. He is not interested in policy; he wants to pick a fight. It’s all about the drama; he will sidetrack any conversation in order to incite it. Stay on point. If he says something outrageous, say nothing. Remain silent. If you react, you are giving him exactly the rise he wants out of you. Let him keep talking as long as he needs to and, over time, he will realize no one is taking the bait, and he will stop. Then, simply restate your original case, as if nothing else had happened. He will eventually get bored with the lack of conflict and then he will either give you what you want or get up and leave.
Learn to Walk Away. Donald Trump doesn’t like listening to others or absorbing new information, so he often throws tantrums to stop the learning process. When his tantrums don’t work, he is likely to morph into bullying and insults. This is where you stop listening and prepare to walk away. Do not hesitate, ever, to get up and leave. Do it earlier in the process, rather than later. Politely excuse yourself (just say you need a break) and get out. Do not return until he gets himself under control and he asks you to return. It’s important he does the asking. It shows he’s willing to try to control himself. But don’t expect an apology; that’s too humiliating for him. Still, it’s imperative you always require civil behavior. I mean this. If you do not set this boundary from the very beginning, his bad behavior will escalate.
Never Trust What He Says. Donald Trump will say anything he needs in order to get what he thinks he wants at any given moment. It’s an axiom of addictive behavior. Not surprisingly, he often won’t remember what he said later. Therefore, never trust his word – on anything. Watch his actions. I can’t stress this enough. What he says makes absolutely no difference; what he does is all you can rely on. Praise him when he does something right, but know, just as every child of an active alcoholic knows, that he is incapable of keeping promises, if they no longer suit his needs.
Let the Republicans be the Enemy. If the Democrats in Congress refuse to enable Donald Trump’s emotional need for conflict and drama, he will turn to someone else who will. I guarantee this. And the easiest and closest objects of his ire will be the Republicans. Stay out of the line of fire and let the members of the GOP continue to destroy one another.
Don’t Feed the Press. You will be asked to express your outrage at every possible opportunity by a press that also thrives on conflict and drama. DO NOT ENGAGE, DEMOCRATS. DO NOT ENGAGE. When the press asks you about Trump’s obviously appalling behavior, simply say it speaks for itself and decent people will make their own judgment about who this man is. Always remind them that he is the creation of the Republican Party and you will leave the explaining and outrage to them. You are powerless to control him.
Have an Exit Plan and Prepare Now. We are required by law to live with this man for four years. Our goal is to remain calm, expect bad behavior, never engage, try to protect ourselves, stay safe, and make plans to get him out of the house as soon as possible.
We need to begin by growing up and taking responsibility for the stupid things we did that got us here in the first place. Our party has done a lot of good things for a great many people in this American family. But we haven’t done enough for a great many others. We have been shamefully derelict in remembering who we are.
We have one job and it is the only job that will save our party. We need to rebuild the middle class. The disparity in what we do with the enormous wealth we create each year in this country is the greatest abomination of our time. We have helped make the rich richer and we have made everybody else poorer. We have done this through our economic and tax policies and we deserve to be mistrusted by working people.
So, we need to pledge that everything we do will contribute to the creation of a strong, diverse, well-educated and open middle class. And we need to tell anyone in our party who takes money from lobbyists who represent the rich and powerful to get out. Period.
It’s time to pass the baton back to the democratic wing of the Democratic Party: those of us who still care first about ordinary working people who need jobs, single payer healthcare, good public schools, free college and the protection of civil rights for everyone – no exceptions.
Let Donald Trump have the bigots and misogynists and neo-Nazis. But those disaffected working folks belong with us, because they need to join their black and Latino and Muslim and female and young working brothers and sisters in taking back our share of the economic pie.
Beginning today, Democrats need to organize around leaders like Warren and Sanders, leaders who have never been ambivalent about whose interests count most. Then, in four years, we will be ready and able to throw this dysfunctional addict out on his ass and make our American family whole and healthy again.